Chapter 1: Introduction
A 2006 article in Time reported on the findings of a Harvard Medical School/National Institute on Aging research study of the effects of consuming resveratrol, a natural substance found in grape skins (Sayre 2006). While they gained weight, mice fed a high-calorie diet along with large doses of the substance lived longer and suffered fewer of the effects of overeating such as liver damage and diabetes. This led some wine lovers to conclude that, sure enough, wine could be the “elixir of life”. The designation “elixir” here is particularly fitting as it captures both the potentially genuine health benefits of wine and the historic tendency to impute alchemic, even mystical properties to it. Consistent with the long tradition of such elixirs, subsequent investigation cast some doubt upon the designation (Semba et al. 2014). The finding of life-enhancing qualities of wine is simply another in a long line of stories connecting wine and the human experience. The quip that “like a fine wine, I get more complex with age” might contain more wisdom than humor. More than one observer has noticed the remarkable similarities between the life of a wine and human life. The themes—and language—of conception, “pre-natal care”, birth (and concern about infanticide), nurture, maturity, environmental quality, aging, decline, and death are prominent in both. The variety of outcomes that reflect origins, culture, chance occurrences, and different values is common to both.